Wednesday, February 27, 2013

AMA analyzes gun control reform, points out issues with confidentiality; is a DNA swab subject to 4th Amendment?

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) – of which I have many memories for its long series of articles in those early days of the AIDS epidemic (as well as did the British journal “The Lancet”, for which I had a rather bizarre source in the workplace), has “come out” with a thoughtful piece on firearms control, by Jeffrey Swanson, “Mental Illness and New Gun Law Reforms:  The Promise and Peril of Crisis-Driven Policy”, link (free) here

Swanson doesn’t take issue with the idea that American citizens normally shouldn’t have access to powerful weapons designed only for war.  (Yes, I know the counterargument, which amounts to anarchy, maybe if you live on the taiga,)  Swanson addresses particularly the additional changes proposed in New York State and then Maryland.
As for the reporting requirements, Swanson points out the rather obvious privacy problems, and the practical deterrent effect that such laws could have on people seeking “help”.  Furthermore, reporting people (especially college students) seeking help to authorities would breach the normal legal expectations (now regulated by HIPAA) of doctor-patient confidentiality.
JAMA also offers another free piece by Katherine Record, “A Systematic Plan for Firearms Law Reform”.  She surveys the entire field, and mentions the issue of media and videogame violence, for which there is no clearly established correlation to actual violence.  I have to add that when I was a youngster, I wasn’t allowed to see violent content, and when I did see it, I found it quite disturbing.

Both of these articles were published Feb. 7, 2013.
This is a good time to mention the controversy before the Supreme Court as to whether police can take DNA samples (by cheek swab) from subjects of routine arrests, without probable cause or court warrants for other specific crimes.  The Associated Press story appears in the Washington Post here. On the one hand, a cheek swab sounds simpler than a fingerprint.  On the other, is taking someone’s DNA like searching one’s home.  I don’t think so.  But is it like looking at emails over 180 days old?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Prostate cancer treatment options present social and psychological issues: doing nothing is often an option

Medicine is constantly rethinking the importance of prostate cancer PSA screening and treatment for men, according to a “Health and Science” page story in the Washington Post on Tuesday, Feb. 26, by Marilyn Fenichel, link here.  
The consequences from treatment – impotence and incontinence – can be significant.  They can test marriages (and provide fuel for political arguments about marriage).  But almost any male would develop fatal prostate cancer if he lived long enough and didn’t die of something else first.  But a few cell types can spread quickly to bones, the brain and lungs.
My own father died of metastasized prostate cancer on New Years Day, 1986, just before his 83rd birthday.  He had been ill only about four weeks.  He probably suspected something from his dizzy spells before, and would not have tolerated the idea of treatment (castration and use of female sex hormones as well as chemotherapy).  My father thought there were limits to the dedication from others, even a spouse, one should expect.
I had an elevated PSA at the end of 2010, but it was normal in 2011 and 2012, probably after the stress of eldercare was over (for mother), and with a lower fat diet. I never took the advice to see a urologist. 

The Post also has a story today about male breast cancer, by Laura Hambleton.
All of this is terrible for those who encounter it before old age.  ABC host Robin Roberts overcame breast cancer at 47, only to get early state leukemia at 52, and encountering a bone marrow transplant in 2012 (covered on the TV blog Feb. 23, 2013). 

NBC News is also reporting on an alarming increase in breast cancer in younger women, according to a new JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) report.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, February 25, 2013

NY-NJ Sandy damage: is it localized, or it it really an issue for volunteerism? A "field trip" report

I visited a few of the locations around New York City affected by “Hurricane” Sandy last October, as much as I could reach on a brief weekend train trip to go to a couple of performances.
Saturday evening, as it was turning dark, I visited the RedHook area of Brooklyn (MTA F line, Carroll street), as Smith street station is still closed for repairs).  It was miserable, with rain and wind and even a little thunder and temperature in the mid 30s.   I walked down a hill past residences that seemed to be fine (one sporting a hanging bicycle), to a channel, and could see that businesses had been built less than ten feet above the water level.  There seemed to be destruction around the channel in the lowest areas near a drawbridge.

I also took the G and F trains to Coney Island, encountering horrible weather and thunder.  I did not see a lot of damage, but I don't think that the Seaside Courts (and paddleball) are there now -- maybe someone knows.  I came back to Manhattan on the D train. 
Sunday afternoon, after one "brunch" or "coffee" performance (see Drama Blog yesterday), I ventured on the Path to Hoboken NJ (the Journal Square line).  I saw a rail terminal (Eire-Lakawana) under renovation, apparently less than ten feet above the water, along a “River Street”.  The downtown area is slightly higher, and in a sports bar (for "hanging out")  the bartender said they really had few problems compared to what the media had reported.   Past the City Hall, a main street appears to descend gradually about fifteen feet, down to an area that obviously would flood, although things looked physically OK now.
The bartender said that it is foolish for someone living right on the water to rent a basement or first floor apartment.  (He lived in the attic of some house.)  He took the libertarian view of personal responsibility. (Even in the Hamptons?  Yes, if you're Nolan Ross.)  
This morning, I took the IRT down to Chambers St  (it didn’t even go on to Rector St., where I had hoped to see a little of what had happened to the subway).  But crews were digging up Chambers St for some massive repair.
The problems that I personally saw didn’t look like the kind that lend themselves to volunteers “grabbing hammers”.  They seem to affect businesses and to be civil engineering issues. 
But why do we have so many people and businesses living just ten feet above sea level on the river or beach?  What is our responsibility for others in this case?

I’ll try to get to Staten Island and lower Queens soon.  I do understand that in those areas, most Sandy victims were fire, police and blue collar. They weren’t the idle rich.

And apparently some high rises lost power because of damage to boilers in basements that may have been below sea level.  Why did Con Ed leave its transformers so vulnerable? 

One other point to note:  On Amtrak, just north of the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, on the north side of the tracks, there is a large power generating station with an American flag in front of it (suggesting patriotism after 9/11), but also reminding us of the important message that our power grid is all too vulnerable, to space weather and possibly to terrorists.  The train never got into the right position for me to include the flag in the shot, but it was there. 
I have a good friend graduating from Virginia Tech in mechanical engineering this spring.  Besides water projects abroad, there ought to be good civil engineering jobs preventing disasters at home waiting for him.  But, ah, the sequestration comes like the Iceman.  

Note the progress on the WTC:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Argument about volunteer military, draft still simmers

Melvin Laird, former Defense Secretary, argues that we should keep the military an all-volunteer force in an op-ed in the Washington Post Friday, link here.  Laird was Secretary of Defense under Nixon until the Vietnam war stopped and the draft (by 1969, a lottery) was ended.
Laird refers to calls from others to reinstate the draft (including Thomas Ricks in April), and readers' comments (on this op-ed) still claim that depending on volunteers is essentially unfair and classist. The preponderance of comments favoring universal military service is quite striking Some say  that a draft would make a president more careful about going to war (or Congress about voting to do so) but Vietnam refutes that idea.  Some see a partial draft as slavery but recognize an overriding importance of service. A democratic society is challenged to show that wounded veterans can still find love, a tremendous ethical challenge for everyone, if the country is to be protected.

 Laird also argues that a volunteer military actually costs less because retention is much higher, and that recruits today are well qualified (that hasn’t always been reported, though).

There is a short film (28 min) on YouTube, “Our Sons and the Draft”, about how people in the draft era tried to join the reserves or guard.

Charles Moskos advocated the resumption of  the draft after 9/11, in exchange for dropping “don’t ask don’t tell”.  Carl Levin (D-MI) spoke about resuming the draft after 9/11 on CNN as soon as Sept. 14, 2001.

Laird does not object to the idea of mandatory national service that includes civilian options (like disaster recovery or eldercare).

Friday, February 22, 2013

States ponder mandatory liability insurance for gun owners

A New York Times story Thursday by Michael Cooper and Mary Williams Walsh reports that a the legislatures of a number of states are considering making liability insurance mandatory for gun owners.  The link is here.
The states include California, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. The concept is similar to that of requiring auto insurance.
States feel that gun owners should have some responsibility if their guns are stolen when not locked up properly, or used improperly by family members or visitors.  It’s sort of “brother’s keeper” legislation.
On the other hand, some people argue that you should not have to have insurance for a Second Amendment right.

Insurance companies would have a motive to concern themselves with the mental health of prospective gun purchasers, maybe even to the point of looking at social media. 
Midweek Politics has a video:
The idea of mandatory insurance for gun owners could create a slippery slope.  How about mandatory insurance for bloggers?  I discussed that back on my main blog in the fall of 2008.

The NRA is reported to support voluntary liability insurance programs.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Near record sunspot forming; a solar flare or CME danger to the power grid soon?

A massive sunspot has been developing since Feb. 19, and could be six times the diameter of Earth.  The Weather Channel has a report on the development here.  

Coronal mass ejections, particularly large ones, can form near large sunspots. MASA has an explanation here  You can trace the link to a first-person account of the historic 1859 Carrington solar flare – I believe middle and high school students should be reading accounts of this in school science (or even literature) curricula to learn about the possible danger to a technological civilization. 
In early 2013, we are in a cycle position for more sunspots, which run in eleven year cycles.  There were some sunspots as large as this one in the 1950s.
The temperature inside a sunspot is about 2000 degrees F cooler than the surrounding plasma.  Just as on Earth (or any planet with an atmosphere), temperature differences cause violent winds, instability, and perhaps solar “tornadoes” leading to flares and ejections. 

The main significance of solar coronal mass ejections is the damage they can cause to power grids (after disrupting the Earth's magnetic shield), particularly some kinds of transformers and relays, and the apparently lackadaisical attitude in the power industry to shore up for this kind of problem.  Investors and poilcymakers seem to be asleep on this one.  

Even so, most large coronal mass ejections actually miss Earth, since they tend to have narrow directions.  That's a good thing.  

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA sunspot picture.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Energy company links with Hugo Chavez to provide help for the poor

The Kennedy family (Joseph) has been touting a commercial on how the needy can be helped with fuel needs.  The group is “Citizens Energy”, with the byline, “No one should be left out in the cold”.  The link is here. The organization is affiliated with Citgo, or Cities Service Oil Company. 
What is curious is that the commercial maintains that the group has the support of socialist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
The group has trademarked a phrase called “The Leadership Challenge”.

CEO Carey Lykins speaks in the video above. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Climate Change demonstration well attended in windy, cold Sunday on Washington DC Mall; several issues made

Today, Sunday, February 17, 2013, I attended the rally (sponsored by the Sierra Club in part) on climate change, which assembled northeast of the Washington Monument.
The main points of the rally were to get the government to force power companies to lower carbon emissions (or recover them with sequestration), and to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline through the Midwest.
There was also considerable opposition to continued mining of tar sands, particularly in western Canada, and to natural gas development in the Appalachian area by fracking (or fracturing), as discussed here Nov. 12, 2012.

It was windy and cold, around freezing, with snow flurries. Winds on the flat Mall can be overwhelming. And I had to walk west from the Smithsonian Metro, into the gale.  

Note the appearance of "The Essenes".  
I would be inclined to say that we should demonstrate to get utilities to take better care of the power grid and not leave them so vulnerable both to windstorms and hurricanes, but also to solar storms and possibly to terrorist EMP attacks.

Most environmental demonstrations are "against" some form of energy development, but don't want to propose a solution other than becoming a Luddite or following Amish values.  

The demonstration marched to the Capitol later today.

The Metro was moderately crowded from this event. It’s easy to tell the story in pictures than in words. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Obamacare will result in much higher premiums for most young adults; problems with uninsured risk pools for rest of 2013

Washington Post reporter N.C, Aizenman is reporting on major problems with “Obamacare”.
On Sunday, February 17, the Washington Post will report that federal funds to support high risk pools will run low (and their renewal is threatened by sequestration and budget problems); it had been intended to last until 2014 (link). 
On Saturday, Aizenman reported than young and healthy adults will pay much more (sometimes three times as much) for their own care because of the new law, partly because the new law forces insurance companies to cover mental health, pregnancy, and other items.  For example, men who do not cause pregnancies will be subsidizing those who do. 

Furthremore, Florida, New Jersey and Tennessee have opted out of running their own exchanges, which will be run by the federal government.  All this has to open job opportunities in I.T., which I’ll address soon.
The philosophical problem is “am I my brother’s keeper”.  The GOP seems to resist the idea – except within the “natural family”. 
Aggravating the problem for young adults is the increase in the use of underpaid interns by employers (who probably expect the interns to remain on their parents’ health insurance), as described by Hannah Seligson, “The Age of the Permanent Intern”, here.

Update: Feb. 18

Robert Pear, in the New York Times, p. A9, writes that many smaller companies with largely younger employees will self-insure (with special "stop-gap" policies), still removing healthier people from the general market and causing mainstream companies and their employees to pay higher premiums, even under Obamacare, as explained here

Friday, February 15, 2013

Earth may get bombarded by "black hole" radiation every 1000 years or so

The Weather Channel republished a UK Telegraph story about a supposed sudden immersion of areas of Earth with radiation about 700 AD.  Carbon dating and various fossil evidence supports the idea.  Theory is that a stellar collision, possibly involving a small black hole or neutron star, happened about 1500 light years away from Earth with a blast of gamma radiation reaching Earth then.
There was damage to some species and genetic effect s on some organisms.  The blast was very short lived.
Were this to happen today, the power grid could be damaged in many parts of the world.
On the other hand, efforts to shore up the grid against solar storms or even terrorist EMP attacks would also shore up the grid against stellar events, which probably affect Earth about once per millennium (like in the song that ends "The Twilight Saga -- Breaking Dawn" movies.
Were such a black hole collision occur within 100 light years of Earth, life could be extinguished.  But no such bodies likely to do this are thought to exist within a few hundred light years.  It is 27000 light years to the Black Hole in the center of the Milky Way.
The Weather Channel reference is here.  Curiously, I couldn’t find the story on the Telegraph site.  But I did find this story about quasars and black hole explosions in other galaxies, here
We must start taking care of our power grids! Newt Gingrich would love this story.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

East Coast could be further jeopardized by Gulf Stream slow down

Sea level could rise even more along the East Coast of the United States because the Gulf Stream could slow as it moves northeast toward Europe because of global warming.
The Weather channel has a detailed story, originally with some scary maps, here

The JGR, Journal of Geophyical Research abstract is here (Feb. 6, 2013). 
Sea level rising could be augmented by as much as three feet by 2100.  And land in some parts of the northeast is actually sinking slowly, out of underlying plate tectonics.  That part would not be related to global warming.
Other scenarios have suggested that the Gulf Stream could collapse, sending northern Europe back into an ice age.
Low lying suburbs of NYC with many high rises, like Hoboken NJ, are arguing that federal disaster recovery grants (or FEMA) should focus on building seawalls and gates for some communities rather than by helping homeowners build “higher”.  Kate Zernike has the article in the New York Times Wednesday here
Hoboken could be worth a visit, to see how it is doing.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Asteroid near-miss reminds us about preparedness, hospitality questions

On February 15, 2013, an asteroid  ("2012 DA14") about half the size of a football gridiron will whiz past the Earth at a lower altitude than some satellites.

NASA is very confident of the miss. 
But it’s also apparent that hits from asteroids this size can occur maybe once a century.  A rock like this will explode in the atmosphere, and would destroy a major city below it. The last such explosion seems to have occurred over Siberia on June 30, 1908, the Tunguska Event, which fortunately occurred over a very unpopulated area.
Ironically, the LDS church has a balanced perspective on this event by Ronald P. Millett here (in its Meridian Magazine). 

NASA has its own account of “The Event” here
It’s reasonable to expect that western aerospace technology could pull off course an asteroid that was going to hit.  It’s not clear what the limit on how large such an asteroid could be is.  A highly advanced civilization can defy Amish thinking and protect itself from most threats, but maybe not all. 
It also raises another huge question. Yes, what would insurance companies do if such an event occurred.  Could the government reimburse the unlucky property owners, as it often did after 9/11?  That gets tougher given the financial and debt reduction debate going on now, in an atmosphere where it has been thinkable that the federal government just might not pay all its bills on time.
Is this a matter of personal preparedness, at some moral level?  This question has to go beyond the world of “Doomsday preppers”.  In the event of such a catastrophe, would ordinary citizens be expected to be prepared to take in displaced families?   To some extent this has already happened, at least locally, after hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy.  It has even happened over a long distance (as some Katrina victims were housed with families hundreds of miles away, sometimes in Texas or even on the East Coast).  Does every homeowner, wherever he lives, have some moral responsibility to be prepared to address this?
Something like this could make anyone homeless.  I thought about the asteroid when I read Petula Dvorak’s Washington Post article on current homelessness in Washington DC, here (following up on an earlier story). 

This seems to fit the discussion of "radical hospitality" on my main blog. 

Wikipedia attribution link for asteroid picture. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

A retiring teacher warns colleges about the failure of "No Child Left Behind"

I saw an op-ed, “A warning to college profs from a high school teacher” at The Washington Post today deserves a reading, link here. The column is called "The Answer Sheet" (maybe a Scanlon).  

The piece is written by a retiring high school government teacher. 

The essay is very critical of the mentality that the federal government (aka Bush administration) imposed on schools with “No Child Left Behind”, particularly with the emphasis on multiple-choice tests, and even the grading rubric for “free response” questions.
The teacher argues that NCLB has seriously undermined student learning in AP (and IB) programs. 
I noticed, when I was substitute teaching (2004-2007) that even in mathematics tests there was way too much use of multiple choice tests.  There was an obsession with "doomsday" prepping students for the SOL's (Standards of Living, as they are called in Virginia).  Why shouldn’t students write out the solution to an algebra problem (say, simplifying or factoring) rather than choose among answers.  Some skills (like solving word problems in algebra or even calculus and physics) will not be developed properly until students write out responses without hints or prompting by answer choices.
I have personally noticed that students who perform in extracurricular activities (like drama, or music), particularly individually sometimes, seem to develop independent thinking and “cognitive maturity” (seeing around corners, as Dr. Phil says, and the ability to see context and relevance) much more rapidly – boys and girls alike.  Sometimes these opportunities are outside school.  For example, students who attend a faith-based activity in almost any denomination or creed (conservative or liberal) and participate in youth programs often have more of these opportunities and seem to develop intellectual and social maturity much more quickly.  Other activities, like learning and playing chess, may add to intellectual development. I notice this all the time. 
The Cato Institute refers to “No Child Left Behind” as “A Decade of Failure”, here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A "wealth tax"? Both the Left and Right sometimes advance taxing accumulated wealth

The New York Times has a story Sunday February 9, 2013, by Anna Bernasak, “Looking beyond income, a tax on wealth”, link here.

This sounds like an idea that would have been popular with the far Left back in the 1970s, particularly the People’s Party of New Jersey, which railed against the concept of unearned wealth or generational wealth.  Unearned assets always represented a gain at the expense of exploited workers, they claimed.
But now some conservatives say that a modest wealth tax would be preferable to the income tax, and could exempt the first several hundred thousand dollars per person, and then perhaps tax 10% of the rest.  That could mean that everyone would have to keep earning money in retirement, or eventually see most wealth melt away, which again sounds nice and Maoist.

Robert MacKinnon has an article “A Conservative Case for a Wealth Tax” in the Wall Street Journal, here.  There is an argument that the wealth tax would encourage more risk taking an openness for ventures, because  people couldn’t rest on their laurels forever.  People might be more open to hucksterism, too.
It’s also worthy of note at setting up a wealth tax structure could make it easier to means test both Social Security and Medicare someday. 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Washington 2013 Auto Show: a few new safety innovations stand out

On Saturday afternoon, the 2013 Washington Auto Show is indeed very crowded (link).  The physical space to be covered by walking is enormous.  There is a line to have your backpack searched (new this year, I think, probably because of recent events), then another to buy a ticket, then a long walk to get to the lower level, and then two escalator rides to the upper level.

What I saw resembles what was there last year.  The show took two whole floors. The most interesting exhibits tended to be upstairs, where they had hybrid cars (like the Volt and Prius) and demonstrations of new home charging stations.

There were also some enormous vans, however, assuming that there are a lot of octomoms around.

There was a model racetrack, and another test drive track for the Fiat, and some antique cars, one sponsored by Fairfax County Public Schools.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the show concerned new automatic parking devices and new pedestrian safety innovations, and safety seats.
A car can actually inflate a buffer outside the car to protect a pedestrian or bicycle. 

There wasn't a lot for bike loves.  

There was plenty of food. 

The show ends Sunday, February 10. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

Would Virginia adopt its own Linden Dollar?

Vermont, California, Texas, and now Virginia are talking about minting their own coins.  I’m not sure if this is legal according to the Constitution, or if it is secessionist.

Presumably, the state would define its own dollar in terms of gold, and the value of the coin in federal dollars would float in a manner similar to international currencies (after 1972-style devaluation). 
The best article I could find on it was “The Hill’s Pundit Blog”, here

Survivalists and Doomsday Preppers say that the save up gold coins and junk silver.

In one of my own early novel manuscripts (“The Proles”), people start using Monopoly money as legal tender after a nuclear war. 

And then there are bit coins, and also the Linden Dollar of Second Life.  Maybe somebody will build a model railroad big enough to have its own currency.

When I lived in Dallas 1979-1988, people said that Texas still has the right to secede, and to split onto six states.  Who would want to live in a “state of East Texas”? 

After all, aren't frequent flyer miles a kind of alternative "private" currency? Libertarians, what do you think about this. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

"New England Patriot" gun owner finds his blog is his most effective "weapon": A Tale of Two Amendments

The Washington Post ran a story about a man in Rhode Island armed – yes, with some weapons – but mainly with his blog, which is called “The Truth About Guns” and can be visited here
It’s getting phenomenal volumes, and he’s actually making a living off it from advertisers (I saw my NL East champion Washington Nationals on it – no doubt placed there by tracking, which I allow) .
He does make an interesting comparison between how polarized the gun debate is today with how polarized the Vietnam War debate (as long as the military draft) was in the 1960s.
The Washington Post story by Joel Achenbach is here (Sunday, February 2).  

The blogger, Rob Farago, lives in Rhode Island but would like to move to Texas (or maybe even Virginia!) Is Farago as much a "First Amendment Guy" as a "Second Amendment Guy"?  He would have opposed SOPA for sure.  
But the arguments really are bipolar.  Some people say that the government has no business knowing who has not only guns or anything. So, they say, no background checks limits.  The US does have the highest ownership relative to population of any major country.  And the most adamant insist that self-defense capability is a moral responsibility.
The statistics seem to favor the argument that gun control does reduce mass incidents, whereas it may encourage street crime against individuals, given other social conditions (such as economic and “cultural” inequality. 
My own father had a 22 rifle in the house, which I did learn to shoot once as a teenager.  I don’t know what became of it.  In the Army, I made sharpshooter with the M-14 (which has a D&C), but never shot an M-16.  Yes, at one time I could take apart and clean an M-14.  I remember ammo detail on the rifle range the day that peace talks about Vietnam supposedly started., in 1968.  

Sunday, February 03, 2013

VA will consider compensating victims of past mandatory sterilization laws

The Virginia House of Delegates in Richmond is considering a bill which would compensate victims of a previous policy of mandatory sterilization of certain persons that had been in effect from 1924 to 1979. The latest Washington Post story, by Frederick Kunkle, is here.  

The story concerned a particular man who had experienced epilepsy after a childhood accident, and was sterilized. 
In 2002, USA Today had reported Gov. Mark Warner’s belated formal apology, for a law that had served as a model in almost thirty other states, link here
Indiana had become the first state to introduce such "eugenics" laws in 1907. The idea of “selective breeding” and eugenics was actually credible in the United States then, as it would become so in Nazi Germany.  The Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh had an exhibit on eugenics laws back in 2007. 

The film below is called "War on the Weak: Eugenics in America" (10 min), by Liam Dunahay, and says that the Nazis built their eugenics laws around earlier state laws in the U.S.   According to the film, people talked as though "pedigree" had moral signficance.  

Friday, February 01, 2013

Virginia's governor wants to tax hybrid or electric cars, but not gasoline

Virginia’s governor Bob McDonnell ® has ruffled some sails by proposing to levy a special registration tax ($100 a year) on hybrid or electric vehicles that pay no or much less gasoline tax, to pay indirectly for road use.

That’s a bit inconsistent with proposals to scrap the gasoline tax altogether and hike the sales tax from 5% to 5.8%. 
The Atlantic has a good editorial on all this, here (by Jordan Weissmann).. 

It’s true, transportation money is spent on other things besides roads, including the new Metro Silver Line.
And it makes sense to raise money from tolls and congestion pricing (with the new Ezpass lanes on the Virginia Beltway).  But the Atlantic proposes a new GPS device in every car to tax drivers on miles driven.  Scary and intrusive.  The state would know where you’re going and coming, like any first grader.
Blue Virginia writes that McDonnell’s math just doesn’t add up, here.